Good Friday, 14 April 2017

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Saint John 18:1 – 19:42

Background: Good Friday Liturgy

The liturgies of Good Friday were not treated well by the Reformations in England and the Lutheran Reformation in Germany. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer has no proper liturgy for Good Friday. Lutherans were in a similar situation, although the Eucharist was allowed to be celebrated unlike their Anglican brothers and sisters where Communion was from the reserved Sacrament. With the liturgical renewal and reforms in the mid 20th Century, a great deal of the classic Good Friday was restored. Those elements are a simplified Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion (for Romans and Anglicans – from the Reserved Sacrament set aside on Maundy Thursday at the Altar of Repose). Other ceremonies include the prostration of the clergy at the beginning of the service, the reading the Passion according to Saint John, the Solemn Prayers, The Reproaches, (sung during the Adoration of the Cross). The reproaches presented a problem during the revision of these rites in that there was some concern that there were anti-Semitic elements to the prayers. The Lutherans completely revised their version of the Reproaches, but it remains a text that is associated with the rite rather than published within the rite.

One pleasant tradition associated with Good Friday is the making, sharing, and eating of Hot Cross Buns. The tradition is that the bread originated at St. Alban’s Abbey where the buns were distributed to the poor on Good Friday. The practice began in 1361. In a deviation from the usual contents of this blog, I include a Hot Cross Bun recipe here:

½ cup water
½ cup whole milk
½ cup sugar
4 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (2 ¼ ounce packages)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoons fine salt
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup currants plumped and cooled
1 egg beaten, for brushing
For the Icing/Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Combine the water and milk in a medium saucepan and warm over low heat until about 100 degrees F (but no more than 110 degrees). Remove from heat and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar and flour over the surface of the liquid. Set aside without stirring, until foamy and rising up the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Whisk the butter, egg yolk and vanilla into the yeast mixture.

Whisk the flour, the remaining sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon to make a thick, shaggy, and slightly sticky dough. Stir in currants. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 8 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in bowl, turning to coat lightly with butter. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour 30 minutes. (If you have a marker, trace a circle the size of the dough on the plastic, and note the time to help you keep track.)

To form the rolls: Butter a 9 by 14-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out of the bowl and pat into a rectangle about 16 by 8 inches. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, about 2 ounces each, with a pizza wheel or bench scraper. (If you don't have a scale, divide the dough in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Cut each of those four sections into 3 equal-sized rolls.)
Tuck the edges of the dough under to make round rolls and place them seam-side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space in between each roll. Cover the pan with buttered plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the rolls rise almost to the rim of the pan and have more than doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Remove the plastic wrap and brush the tops of the buns with beaten egg. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the rolls registers 190 degrees F, about 25 minutes.

For the glaze: Stir together confectioners' sugar, milk, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth. Transfer icing to a zip bag or pastry bag, and make a small cut in the corner of the bag. Ice buns in a thick cross shape over the top of the warm buns.

First Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
--so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals--
so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

The first reading is the Fourth Servant Song of Isaiah. The song itself is divided amongst two speakers, God and others. God speaks in two sections: 1) Verses 52:13 – 15, and 2) 53:11b – 12, thus the responses of the people are framed by comments from God. The reading functions as an announcement and a report on the Servant. In both, the Servant is seen in humiliation and exaltation. God’s opening remarks disclose both themes, how he is now exalted but formerly was an object of disgust.

The report from the people dwells on the Servant’s sufferings, and the suffering is described as parched, despised, and insignificant. Then the report turns to the cause of these sufferings, the peoples’ guilt. The final resultant sufferings are death and burial with transgressors.

The second part of the report deals with the Servant’s deliverance through God’s pleasure of the Servant and God’s intervention on the Servant’s behalf. The final discourse from God reveals how the Servant has procured righteousness through the deeds described in the report.

For a fine, detailed study of this pericope see Claus Westermann’s commentary on Isaiah 40-66.[1]

Breaking open Isaiah:
1.          Who is a suffering servant in our time?
2.          What do you do when you see suffering?
3.         How does God intervene in the world’s suffering?

Psalm 22 Deus, Deus meus

     My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?
2      O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *
by night as well, but I find no rest.
3      Yet you are the Holy One, *
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
4      Our forefathers put their trust in you; *
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5      They cried out to you and were delivered; *
they trusted in you and were not put to shame.
6      But as for me, I am a worm and no man, *
scorned by all and despised by the people.
7      All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
8      "He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him; *
let him rescue him, if he delights in him."
9      Yet you are he who took me out of the womb, *
and kept me safe upon my mother's breast.
10    I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; *
you were my God when I was still in my mother's womb.
11    Be not far from me, for trouble is near, *
and there is none to help.
12    Many young bulls encircle me; *
strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
13    They open wide their jaws at me, *
like a ravening and a roaring lion.
14    I am poured out like water;
all my bones are out of joint; *
my heart within my breast is melting wax.
15    My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; *
and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.
16    Packs of dogs close me in,
and gangs of evildoers circle around me; *
they pierce my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
17    They stare and gloat over me; *
they divide my garments among them;
they cast lots for my clothing.
18    Be not far away, O Lord; *
you are my strength; hasten to help me.
19    Save me from the sword, *
my life from the power of the dog.
20    Save me from the lion's mouth, *
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.
21    I will declare your Name to my brethren; *
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
22    Praise the Lord, you that fear him; *
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob's line, give glory.
23    For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them; *
but when they cry to him he hears them.
24    My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.
25    The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the Lord shall praise him: *
"May your heart live for ever!"
26    All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, *
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
27    For kingship belongs to the Lord; *
he rules over the nations.
28    To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
all who go down to the dust fall before him.
29    My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him; *
they shall be known as the Lord's for ever.
30    They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
the saving deeds that he has done.

This psalm contains many a familiar phrase and thought, not the least of which is Jesus’ quotation in Aramaic from the cross (Matthew 27:46). The psalm is divided into two parts, 1) Lament and Supplication, (verses 1-21), and 2) Praise and Thanksgiving (verses 22-31). In the psalm, the author explores the deliverance that God has brought to God’s people. What is helpful is that this exploration is done from several emotional viewpoints, so that the reader, or the one participating in the psalm (is the psalm an ancient liturgical piece?) might find a point of connection in their own life and experience. The first part is troubled. Weiser[2] describes it as “trembling” and going to and fro from one emotion to the next. The second part is absent this emotional response, and is more ordered in its reporting the praise and thanksgiving due to God for God’s actions over against the sinner. The resulting composition is reflective not of a collective communities, but of individuals within that community.

Breaking open the Psalm 22:
1.         What are our laments during Holy Week?
2.         What are our thanksgivings during Holy Week?
3.        What do you personally identify with in this psalm?

The Second Reading: Hebrews 10:16-25

The Holy Spirit testifies saying,

"This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,"

He also adds,

"I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The liturgical pericope is a combination of a first pericope (The Consummate Sacrifice, 10:1-18) using the last two verses, and a second pericope (The Heavenly Sanctuary and Earthly Assembly, 10:19-25) that is used in its entirety. The first verses, which are “quotations” from the Holy Spirit, actually a paraphrase from Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34). Thus the author introduces God’s intentions for forgiveness, and the indwelling of God’s will in the people’s very being. With that as a foundation we move to two separate vantage points: the heavenly sanctuary and the earthly community. Here we are invited to commune with God in a heavenly sanctuary, but also encouraged to know God’s presence on earth, as we do good works and exhibit love with the faithful. God’s presence takes on two aspects here – the one above, and the other anticipated in the final verse as the judgmental “Day”. The community be seeking that which is above and living it in the earthly community is prepared to receive “the Day approaching.”

Breaking open Hebrews:
  1. In what ways is your visit to your church heavenly?
  2. How is it earthly?
  3. How is love in evidence in the community.

Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

This option makes a connection between the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (see First Reading, above) and the suffering Jesus as High Priest.  It is good for us, however, to see the verses that immediately precede this pericope, for they represent a tone that is changed in our pericope, and therein is the essence of the message.

“For the word of God is living and active, more cutting than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, or joints and marrow, and able to scrutinize the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and nothing created is concealed before him, but all are naked and defenseless before the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.”

The scene suddenly shifts from an awareness of our nakedness before God to an image of Jesus as the great High Priest who suffers as we suffer, and who participates in our weakness. It is this image that gives us boldness with which and in which we can now approach God to find both grace and mercy. Jesus, the human Jesus, the Jesus who has taken on the guise of priest, the guise of Melchizedek, it is this Jesus who is able to take the weakness of our own lives and make of it prayer. So the author lists the elements of weakness – cries, tears, and supplications that mark our response, and Jesus’ prayer as well. I am reminded of Paul’s comments on prayer, weakness, and the Spirit in Romans 8:26-27.

“In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.”

This prepares us for our own prayer as we walk with Jesus through the events of the Triduum. Here, in Hebrews, we have a vision of Jesus being made complete through his suffering. If the servant suffered and was then exalted, so shall we? That is the central question that Hebrews confronts here. Our question is whether or not we can share in the confidence that Jesus shows, so that we too might approach the Throne of Grace.

Breaking open Hebrews:
  1. How do you see humanity in Jesus?
  2. How do you see courage in Jesus?
  3. How does your faith make you courageous?

The Gospel: St. John 18:1-19:42

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, "I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me." Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?"
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said." When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, "You are not also one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not." One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate's headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" They answered, "If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law." The Jews replied, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death." (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, "I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" They shouted in reply, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

"They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots."

And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

To comment on the Passion of Our Lord according to Saint John in detail would exceed the boundaries of this particular blog. Indeed if one wishes to study this passion in detail, Raymond Brown’s book, The Death of the Messiah[3] would more than suffice. Another helpful volume by the same author, Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year[4], is a concise commentary on each of the passion narratives – so the material on John might prove to be helpful.

“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.”
St. John 13:1

The value of praying the Daily Office, and celebrating a daily Eucharist can be seen in the context that the Lectionary for the Office and the Mass provides. The readings from John there provide a context as we enter into the events of Holy Week. It allows us to know the Johannine Jesus more fully as we approach the Jesus of the Passion. The evangelist indicates the cusp that is crossed in the first verse of chapter 13; Jesus knows that the time has come for all things to be accomplished.  Jesus is not a victim without power, but rather one who approaches the cross knowing what was at stake. This Jesus does not kneel in the garden requesting a reprieve. Since he and the Father are one, he knows the mind of God. Therefore he is confident in his role. When confronted by the powers that be Jesus confidently asserts what he is.

Raymond Brown issues a small warning about how the Jews are portrayed and treated in the fourth gospel, and it is something of which we need to be aware. The animosity was mutual and was very much a part of the social context within which the Gospel of John was written. Here, however, is the warning:

“The context of mutual hostility between the Johannine community and the synagogue must be taken into account when proclaiming the Johannine passion narrative in the Good Friday liturgy.”[5]


He goes on to insist that if these passages are to be read liturgically, that some comment on their context and origination needs to be made by preacher or lector. Of some help in such a study and gaining a greater awareness, you may wish to access Sonya Cronin’s dissertation, Raymond Brown, “The Jews,” and the Gospel of John.[6] A thorough reading is not necessary, but a skim of the materials will be helpful in preparing you for a discussion of these issues.

Of special interest in the Gospel is the role of the Spirit. We are aware of this connection in 19:30, “bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” It is only after the death and resurrection that this spirit is shared with the disciples, when in John 20 Jesus breathes on them, and grants them the Holy Spirit. The Passion Narrative and the reading of the passion on this day should not be seen as an end piece, but rather an entry into a different future and a shared relationship with God.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.     Do you have any sympathies for the reactions of the Jewish leaders to Jesus?
2.     What character of the Passion Narrative strikes you the most?
3.    How will you observe this day?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday. 

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2017, Michael T. Hiller

[1]  Westermann, C. (1969) Isaiah 40-66, A Commentary, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, page 253ff.
[2]  Weiser, A. (1962) The Psalms A Commentary, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, page 219.
[3]  Brown, R. (1994) The Death of the Messiah From Gethsemane to the Grave, Volumes I and II, Doubleday, New York.
[4]  Brown, R. (2012) Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year Liturgical Press, Collegeville.
[5]  Ibid, Kindle Location 3396.
[6]  Cronin, Sonya, Raymond Brown, “The Jews,” and the Gospel of John, A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Florida State University College of Arts and Sciences, 2009,, 5 April 2017.


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